No matter their skill level, cyclists have lots of options for routes across Texas. Not all are as grueling as the Fort Davis Scenic Loop, which we feature in the September issue. Here are five other rides that offer beautiful scenery, perhaps a few challenges, and maybe even some historic sites as well.
1. The San Antonio History Scramble
Sometimes the destination is the point of a ride. In this case, make it destinations, as you explore the 16-mile Mission Reach trail system, in San Antonio, which connects four national historic missions: Mission San Juan, Mission Espada, Mission San José, and Mission Concepcion. You don’t even need to bring a bike to follow the San Antonio River between stops, just rent a B-cycle and off you go.
2. The Lost Pines Ramble
Just outside Smithville, in the storied Lost Pines Forest (steadily recovering since the devastating fires of 2011), Park Road 1-C, between popular Bastrop and Buescher state parks, is a 12-mile strip where riders can set their own pace. Those wanting to recharge aerobically can hit the hills hard and speed along the lightly trafficked route. Or pack a picnic and take your time. Keep an eye out for pileated woodpeckers whacking away on burned snags. Skinny tires recommended.
3. Cross Timbers Rails-to Trails
In Parker and Palo Pinto counties, cyclists (as well as hikers and horseback riders) can follow a gentle 20-mile gravel path along a former railroad line between Weatherford and Mineral Wells that was repurposed for recreation and reopened in 1998. Highlights along the picturesque, multiuse trail include scenic lake views and old wooden bridges. Camping is available at Lake Mineral Wells State Park.
4. Conquer the Coastal Bend
The 66-mile cruise around Corpus Christi Bay runs the length of Mustang Island, passes through Port Aransas and Ingleside, includes a ferry ride, and has only one significant climb, over the 138-foot-high Harbor Bridge to North Beach. Don’t let the relative flat of the route fool you, as the wind can be a killer–not just hurricanes, though Harvey forced the annual H-E-B-sponsored version of the ride to reroute sections. Don’t miss H-E-B’s Conquer the Coast fundraising ride on September 15.
5. Getting Wild in Waco
Across Texas, mountain bikers have an array of options. One of our fat-tire favorites are the trails in Waco’s Cameron Park, with a swooping single track up and down the banks of the Brazos River. Portions of the fifteen-mile network of trails are shared with pedestrian users, so be courteous if you’re pushing those pedals, but with hair-raising sections such as Root Canal and Vortex, riders are sure to have some fun. The Bear Mountain shop offers mountain bike rentals if you don’t have your own.